Finding an affordable therapist can be a daunting task, especially when you’re already dealing with mental health issues like anxiety or depression. The mere thought of it can plunge you deeper into panic and despair. Not only do you have to navigate the decision to seek therapy, but you also have to figure out how to afford it. Limited funds, high copays, and exorbitant deductibles only serve to compound your stress. Fortunately, several strategies can help you find an affordable therapy option.
When You Have Insurance Coverage
Firstly, the Affordable Care Act mandates that mental health be treated as an essential benefit in individual and small-group insurance plans. Consequently, most insurance plans cover a percentage of mental health care services, although the actual percentage varies. Federal and state regulations prohibit insurance companies from charging higher copays for behavioral health services compared to medical services. In other words, the copay for seeing a therapist cannot be unreasonably higher than that for visiting a general medical practitioner.
If you have insurance, it’s advisable to review your benefits information or directly contact your insurance company to understand your mental health coverage. It’s important to ascertain whether you have a copay or deductible, whether a referral or prior authorization is necessary, and which types of services are covered.
While staying in-network with your insurance plan is generally recommended, there may be instances where no in-network providers are available nearby or they are not accepting new patients. In such cases, it can be beneficial to inquire about any out-of-network benefits you may have. Out-of-network benefits could provide alternative options, although they may not be feasible if you have to pay for sessions upfront, have high deductibles, or need to submit your claims.
When You Do Not Have Insurance Coverage
If you lack health insurance or have a subpar plan, reaching out to private therapists to inquire about sliding scale fees is an option. A sliding scale fee is a modified fee based on your financial situation, determined by the therapist. Many therapists specify whether they offer sliding scale fees or other discounted rates in online directories.
Mental Health Agencies
In the absence of private therapists offering sliding scale fees, mental health agencies can be considered. These agencies are funded by community, state, and federal resources and provide therapeutic services at low to no cost. Contacting a community agency directly to inquire about their criteria for sliding scale fees can be advantageous.
Therapists in Training
Another potentially more affordable option is seeking a counselor who is still in training and not fully licensed. Counselors in training work under the supervision of experienced, licensed mental health professionals to ensure clients receive ethical and quality care. Due to their pre-licensure status, counselors in training often charge reduced rates, making them a financially reasonable choice. You can find counselors in training in college counseling offices, agencies, or working alongside therapists in private or group practices.
Teletherapy has emerged as another affordable therapy option. The cost of online therapy is generally lower than in-person therapy, allowing you to work with a trained and licensed professional with the added convenience of logging in remotely. The efficacy of teletherapy has proven to be comparable to traditional sessions for conditions where physical harm is not an issue.
Dealing with a mental health condition and deciding to pursue therapy can be mentally exhausting, especially when financial concerns come into play. However, by considering these strategies, finding an affordable therapist can become a much easier endeavor.
- Division, D. C. (2023, April 20). Does the Affordable Care Act cover individuals with mental health problems? HHS.gov. https://www.hhs.gov/answers/health-insurance-reform/does-the-aca-cover-individuals-with-mental-health-problems/index.html
- Andrews, G. E., Basu, A., Cuijpers, P., Craske, M. G., McEvoy, P., English, C., & Newby, J. M. (2018). Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: An updated meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 55, 70–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.01.001
- Josephine, K., Josefine, L., Philipp, D., David, E., & Harald, B. (2017). Internet- and mobile-based depression interventions for people with diagnosed depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 223, 28–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.021